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At a glance: travelling around Portugal by caravan and motorhome
At a glance: travelling around Portugal by caravan and motorhome

At a glance: travelling around Portugal by caravan and motorhome

What you need to know for your camping trip to Portugal: interesting facts, traffic rules and practical tips
freeontour
FREEONTOUR

Author: Freeontour, Header image: Pixabay

Entry into Portugal

Entry requirements for EU citizens:when visiting as tourists, EU citizens need a (temporary) passport or a (temporary) ID card or a child passport.

Entry requirements for British citizens: when visiting as tourists, British citizens need a (child) passport that has at least six months of validity and is not older than ten years when entering the country. You will not need a visa if you stay up to 90 days every 180-day period. Stays of more than 90 days will require a visa.

Entry requirements for children:minors (under 18 years of age) travelling with you, e.g. friends of your children, should carry a certified declaration of consent from their parents or legal guardian.

Entry requirements for pets: dogs, cats and ferrets need an EU pet passport, microchip identification and a valid rabies vaccination that is at least 21 days old.

Animals younger than 15 weeks are not allowed to enter Portugal. You can travel with up to five pets. If you exceed this amount, you will have to observe the commercial import regulations. You should always carry a leash with you as it is mandatory in many places.

Latest travel advice during the COVID-19 pandemic

Please find out what the current restrictions and entry requirements are before you travel.

You will find more information on the coronavirus situation in Portugal here.

The most important traffic rules for motorhomes and caravans in Portugal

Speed limits in Portugal

Special speed limits for novice drivers:
if you have only had your driving licence for less than a year, you will have to attach an appropriate sticker to your car and are only allowed to drive up to 90 km/h, including on motorways.

Fines: if you exceed the speed limit by 20 km/h, you will have to pay a fine of at least €60; by 50 km/h and at least €120 will eat into your holiday budget. You will also be fined at least €120 for not wearing a seat belt or for overtaking when not allowed. And since the beginning of 2021, anyone who uses their mobile phone without a hands-free system while driving will be charged at least €250.

Toll roads in Portugal

Most motorways in Portugal are toll roads. Payment is made either in the traditional way at the toll stations or via an electronic payment system. Since 2011, only electronic toll payments are accepted on specific routes. These routes are marked with blue signs saying "Electronic Toll Only". This means that you can only pay online or via toll box to use these motorways, which include the A4, A8, A13, A17, A19, A22, A23, A24, A25, A27, A28, A29, A33, A41, A42.

You have to register in advance to pay the toll electronically. The easiest way to do this is to use a toll box. Alternatively, when entering the country, head for one of the so called Welcome Points at the border to register your vehicle for the tolling system. You will find Welcome Points here: A28 - Viana do Castelo, A24 - Chaves, A25 - Vilar Formoso, A22 - Vila Real de Santo António.

The toll amount depends on how far you drive and the vehicle category. However, there is a 12-hour time limit between two toll booths. If you want to take a break in a car park or a nap in your motorhome, try not to exceed the time limit, otherwise you will be charged double the fee for the longest possible route to the toll booth.

Vehicle classes: the toll in Portugal is calculated according to four vehicle classes, which are based on the number of axles and the height of the front axle.

Toll systems in Portugal

There are four different ways of making electronic toll payments in Portugal. Depending on the type and length of your stay, choose the system that makes the most sense for you:

1. Easy Toll: this variant is a suitable choice for longer stays of up to 30 days if you do not want to use a toll box. The prerequisite is a valid credit card, which you link to your number plate at one of the Welcome Points. All toll charges are then automatically debited from the credit card account. When you register, you will receive a ticket that you must keep. It is proof that you have paid the toll, for example during a police road check.

2. TollService: This system is particularly suitable for a short stay or transit routes in Portugal and is available for vehicles in toll classes 1 and 2. It is a kind of vignette or prepaid ticket at a price of 20 euros, with which you can drive on as many electronic toll routes as you like for 3 days. Alternatively, you can pay for a certain section of the route, for example from Faro airport to the Spanish border. You can pay for the vignette in cash or by credit card and top it up for a year. TollService is not only available at the border crossings, but also at all branches of the Portuguese Post (CTT), tourist offices, motorway service stations and online.

3. TollCard: this solution is suitable for anyone who frequently travels to Portugal and does not wish to use a toll box. It is valid for one year and can be topped up online with €5, €10, €20 or €40. The TollCard is activated by SMS and you will also receive messages on your mobile phone to tell you when your credit is about to run out. You can get the TollCard not only at the border crossings, but also at all branches of the Portuguese Post (CTT), tourist offices, motorway service stations and online.

Please note: TollCard and TollService can only be used to pay for electronic toll sections. For sections with classic toll stations, you have to queue up and pay an extra toll.

4. Toll box for campers: There are now various toll boxes with which Portugal holidaymakers can also use the so-called Via Verde system in Portugal. The big advantage is that if you have such a transponder for electronic payment on board your car or motorhome, you do not have to stop at the classic toll stations and can use the fast lanes. Via Verde itself offers the Via Verde Visitors Box for this purpose, which is paid for by credit card. However, since European campers usually have to drive through France and Spain first to reach Portugal by land, a toll box that can also be used in these countries is a good option. One example for such a toll box is the Bip&Go toll box, which is also available at a reduced rate for Freeontour members. In Portugal and Spain, this can also be used for motorhomes over 3.5 t.

Petrol stations – opening times and payment methods in Portugal

In general, petrol stations in Portugal open at 6 or 7 a.m. and close between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Many motorway service stations offer a 24-hour service (“aberto 24 horas”). You can pay in cash or by credit card. Some petrol stations also accept EC cards.

General traffic rules in Portugal

Overview of important parking rules:
- Yellow markings and signs with “Estacionamiento prohibido”: no parking
- Blue markings: parking is allowed with a parking ticket
- White markings: free parking allowed
- Be careful with bus stops: parking is prohibited 5 m before and 25 m after
- Tram stations: no parking within 6 m on either side
- Road crossings: parking is prohibited 5 m before
- Vehicles may not be parked outside built-up areas at night (fine of up to €1,250).

New rule for overnight stays in motorhomes and caravans:
In principle, free camping was not officially allowed in Portugal, not even in the last few years. However, at the beginning of 2021, the rules were tightened again. Accordingly, motorhomes and car/caravan combinations are now only allowed to park in areas specifically designated for these vehicles. Overnight stays are also only permitted at campsites and motorhome pitches. Penalties for free camping can cost as much as €60-€300, in Natura 2000 areas or in nature reserves between €120 and €600.

Alcohol limit in Portugal:
The permitted alcohol limit in Portugal is 0.5‰. The limit for drivers with less than three years' driving experience is 0.2‰.

Child car seats:
Child seats are compulsory for children under twelve years of age and smaller than 1.35 m. The airbag should be deactivated when a child under three years of age is travelling in the front passenger seat, and the child should be strapped in a rear-facing car seat.

High-visibility vest requirement:
In Portugal, high-visibility vests are mandatory, but not for vehicles registered abroad. For your own safety, however, you should always carry high-vis vests with you.

Overhanging load markers:
Overhanging loads (such as bike carriers) may protrude up to 55 cm at the front and up to 45 cm at the rear. They must be marked by a panel with red and white stripes - you can use the same panel as in Spain.

Regulations at roundabouts:
Vehicles that are already on the roundabout have the right of way - unless the right of way is regulated otherwise by separate signage. On multi-lane roundabouts, you may only use the outermost lane if you want to leave the roundabout at the next exit. 

Important addresses and telephone numbers for holidaymakers in Portugal

European emergency number: 112
Ring this central emergency number to get help from the local police, fire brigade, emergency doctor or ambulance. Calls are free from a landline and mobile phone, no area code is needed.

Roadside assistance:
please check with your car insurance company or breakdown cover provider before travelling to Portugal.

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